| 12°C Dublin

Bereaved son launches first legal case against Chinese government for 'covering up disease'

Close

A security officer stands guard outside the Xinfadi wholesale food market district in Beijing. Beijing closed the city's largest wholesale food market Saturday after the discovery of seven cases of coronavirus. AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

A security officer stands guard outside the Xinfadi wholesale food market district in Beijing. Beijing closed the city's largest wholesale food market Saturday after the discovery of seven cases of coronavirus. AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

AP

A security officer stands guard outside the Xinfadi wholesale food market district in Beijing. Beijing closed the city's largest wholesale food market Saturday after the discovery of seven cases of coronavirus. AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

The first legal case against the Chinese government for covering up the coronavirus outbreak has been launched.

Zhang Hai's 76-year-old father died from Covid-19 in mid-January after being infected in a Wuhan hospital he had gone to a week earlier to have a fracture repaired.

"If the government hadn't covered up the disease in the early stages, my father wouldn't have died," Mr Zhang (50) said. "I am furious. What they did amounts to murder. So many people lost their lives during this pandemic."

He is demanding nearly 2 million yuan (€251,226) to cover his late father's government pension had he survived, the psychological toll on the family and funeral expenses, as well as an official apology.

The unprecedented lawsuit is a huge risk for Mr Zhang as it challenges the ruling Communist Party's official narrative, which denies a cover-up, glosses over missteps and focuses on containment success.

"The case is very sensitive, so the court will probably give us a cold shoulder," said Yang Zhanqing, his lawyer. "At the same time, the court will notify the local government, and the authorities will coerce him to withdraw the lawsuit."

China has used a selective timeline to defend against growing criticism of its lack of openness in the pandemic, even as lawsuits seeking damages from Beijing pile up across the world.

Meanwhile, after weeks with almost no new coronavirus infections, Beijing has recorded dozens of new cases in recent days, all linked to a major wholesale food market, raising concerns about a resurgence of the disease.

The capital is taking steps to try to halt the outbreak including ramping up testing.

Last night Beijing ordered all companies to supervise 14-day home quarantine for employees who have visited the Xinfadi market or been in contact with anyone who has done so.

A restaurant chain selling traditional Beijing noodles shut down a few outlets after two employees tested positive.

There had been almost no new coronavirus cases in the city for almost two months until an infection was reported on June 12, and since then the total number has climbed to 51, including eight reported by 7am yesterday.

According to the city's health authority, all the infected people had either worked or shopped in Xinfadi, the largest food market in Asia, or had been in contact with someone who was there. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk